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16 Mar, 2024 13:37

Modi hails ‘festival of democracy’ as India sets election dates

The nationwide ballot will be held over 84 days, when almost 970 million are eligible to cast their votes
Modi hails ‘festival of democracy’ as India sets election dates

India, the world’s most populated country as well as its largest democracy, has announced dates for its next general election, a ballot of over 950 million voters that will span six weeks.

The election will be conducted in seven phases, the first beginning on April 19 and the last in June, India’s Election Commission (CEC) announced on Saturday. The counting of votes will begin on June 4, with results set to be declared the same day. The current government’s term will end on June 16.

This year, about 969 million people are eligible to vote, the CEC said. 543 politicians will ultimately be elected to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament.

This year, New Delhi is introducing home-voting facilities for individuals aged 85 and above, as well as for voters with a “benchmark disability,” as designated by a government authority.

This time, the polls are being conducted over a longer period, which takes into consideration “geographic conditions, festivals, exams, and various other factors,” India’s Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said. In the last national election, in 2019, casting of ballots was held between April 11 and May 19.

2019 saw the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secure 303 seats, while the Congress party, its nearest rival, managed to win 52. This time too, Modi’s party is widely expected to win the election, according to pollsters.

“The biggest festival of democracy is here,” the PM wrote on X (formerly Twitter) moments after the dates were announced.

While BJP will lead a coalition of more than three dozen parties across India, the Congress leads an alliance of about two dozen parties. Modi has set a target of 400 seats for a BJP-led coalition and is seeking a third term in office.